Shonda Rhimes may not be the first name you associate with Regency-era romance stories, but after you watch her new Netflix series Bridgerton, it probably will be. Case in point: the show’s plentiful sex scenes, which stay true to the steamy style of Rhimes’ past projects while providing all the tension and yearning of a period piece. To get these moments just right, two of the shows’ stars, Phoebe Dynevor and Regé-Jean Page, explain the Bridgerton sex scenes were just as choreographed as any of their elaborate dance numbers.
Warning: Spoilers for Season 1 of Bridgerton follow. Based on a series of romance novels by Julia Quinn, Bridgerton follows the Bridgerton family in early-19th century England. Season 1 tells the story of The Duke and I, the first book in Quinn’s Bridgerton family series, in which the eldest daughter of the family, Daphne Bridgerton (Dynevor) makes her debut in London high society and begins her search to find a husband. All goes well until Lady Whistledown, the anonymous Gossip Girl-esque columnist, declares her basically ineligible for marriage. Meanwhile, the highly sought-after Duke of Hastings, Simon Basset (Page), simply wants to be left alone. So, the two of them concoct a plan to pretend they’re in love to make Daphne appear more desirable and to keep women away from Simon. But like in any good romance story, the lines between pretend and reality can become easily blurred, and that’s where the provocative love scenes come in.
As the central couple of Bridgerton, it was important for Dynevor and Page to build a strong bond during the weeks of prep they had before series production began. "We had loads of dance rehearsals, which was amazing and really essential to the progress of finding the chemistry between us," Dynevor tells Elite Daily. "With the intimacy scenes, we got to rehearse all of those over and over again before we went on set, so we were together a lot of the time before we even started shooting."
Dyenvor and Page also spent time with an intimacy coordinator to plan their sex scenes, which were just as scripted as any other part of the show.
"When you’re speaking with your words, you have words written down on a piece of paper," Page explains. "When you’re speaking with your bodies, you have choreography in the dance scenes, and you have choreography in the intimate scenes. The only difference is that you’re doing a dramatic scene with a few less clothes on sometimes."
A key factor in Bridgerton’s intimate moments, the actors explain, is how they’re presented to viewers. "I think it’s fun to explore a show like this, through the female gaze, which is less common than we’d all like," Page says. "I think it’s fun to kind of see the education of Daphne Bridgerton, to see her discover her own sexuality on her own terms."
At the start of Bridgerton, Daphne is naive about relationships, but part of the fun of watching the show is seeing her learn about herself as she grows. "She knows nothing about sexuality when we meet her," Dynevor says. "She sees love as it’s written in a romance novel, that two people fly away in a golden carriage and their child comes down [from] a stork and is just placed there. All of this show is [her] learning. We’re sort of seeing it all with Daphne for the first time."
For Dyenevor, a big part of portraying Daphne and Simon’s sex scenes was acknowledging the fact that they contributed to a larger coming-of-age story for her character. "I just knew that we weren’t going to be sexualized for the sake of being sexualized," she says. "It was all in there to tell a story and very much through the female gaze, which is a really important aspect of the show and Daphne’s sexual awakening and her journey."
Audiences can see Daphne’s journey, along with plenty of other scandalous drama for the show’s ensemble cast of characters, in Season 1 of Bridgerton, which is available on Netflix now.
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